Friday, 5 November 2010

BNP rejects ' free' transit

BNP has called upon the government to decide on transit for India after assessing its economic benefits. The opposition party has no qualms if it is beneficial to the country.

The opposition on Thursday also claimed that the government is vague on the matter of transit and trans-shipment. It called for a politically unanimous decision on the issue.

BNP leader M K Anwar, who is known for his political rhetoric against transit, clarified the opposition's stand on the matter at a press conference at the party's Gulshan office.

The clarification came two days after finance minister Abul Maal Abdul Muhith gave a statement in support of transit, but only if Bangladesh charged fees for the facility. "Government's decision to allow free transit to Indian goods is unacceptable. It makes Bangladesh look like an Indian state, like West Bengal or Assam. This is yet another step towards selling out our sovereignty."

The finance minister on Tuesday said that Bangladesh could not charge VAT on transit. "Transhipment may have such duties. However, we may charge a fee for transit since we are allowing use of our territory." Citing examples from international laws and policies, ex-minister Anwar said, "European and ASEAN nations charge duties and service charges for transit of neighbouring countries' goods."

Anwar asked the government to conduct a research to judge costs and benefits of transit. "If the research shows that transit will be of use to the country, BNP will have no objections." When asked whether BNP had moved away from its earlier stand of opposing transit, Anwar replied in the negative.

"BNP has always said that it does not endorse anything that is against the interest of the country. Benefits of transit-transhipment and port usage to India have to be analysed. It is unacceptable that the government is taking steps without prior assessment."

Anwar accused the government for not paying any attention to obtaining the Tk 240 billion required to develop roads and infrastructure for the transit.

"The prime minister has been pressurised into the agreement while visiting India. Chittagong port usage, changing the route of the Asian Highway, all these are being done to protect Indian interests.

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